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Don’t Grill Them Over The Chicken

, , , , , , | Working | September 27, 2021

While living in the DC Metro area, we have out-of-town visitors in to see the sights. We spend one day shopping and gawking in the Georgetown area. When lunchtime arrives, we find an out-of-the-way bistro that doesn’t have an excessive wait time and where the prices (as compared to many upscale Georgetown eateries) are not outrageous.

We all order drinks, appetizers, and full-sized meals. I select a grilled chicken breast. As anyone who has ever grilled chicken knows, the thickness of a chicken breast varies, so it is hard to get the main part fully cooked without the thin outer edge becoming overcooked.

I clean my plate but leave a small amount of the charred edge of the chicken.

Waitress: “Was the chicken not cooked to your liking?”

Me: “No, it was fine. I’d rather have the main part well cooked, even if the edge was overdone.”

Waitress: “I’m terribly sorry for that, sir. I’ll speak to the chef to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Me: “Please don’t. Everything was delicious, and I wouldn’t have expected anything different. It really wasn’t a problem.”

Less than two minutes later:

Manager: “I’m the restaurant manager, and I’d like to apologize for your meal not being served perfectly.”

Me: “Think nothing of it! Everything was excellent and all of us were completely satisfied with everything that we had. We have no complaints or concerns about anything.”

Manager: “You’re being too kind, sir. We strive to meet very high standards here, and we won’t accept anything less for any customer’s experience. I’ve removed your lunch charge from the bill, and I’d like to provide your entire party with dessert as a way to make amends for this problem.”

Me: “Honestly, that really isn’t necessary. Everything was wonderful and we’re all really happy that we found this place. There is no need for you to make adjustments for something that we didn’t see as a problem.”

Manager: “Thank you for your kindness. I hope that you’ll come back again sometime so we can prove that we can do things properly.”

When the check came, ALL of my charges — drinks, appetizer, and main meal — had been removed from the bill. That restaurant became our go-to location for visitors, special occasions, and even for business meals. I recommended it to my sales team for their use with customers. By the time I was transferred to a new location, I’m sure that their $100 fix to a non-existent problem had netted them over $10,000 from my business alone.

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There’s No Freeing Yourself From This Awkwardness

, , , , , | Related | September 7, 2021

My goddaughter’s mother was eager to go to a museum that was just opening up while she happened to be in town visiting me, so I went with her to the opening day ceremony. The museum was well put together, but since we were there on opening day, it took forever just to get in, and it was extremely crowded once we finally got in.

My goddaughter was a toddler at the time, and I’d strapped her into one of those wearable carriers to carry her when it was clear she was falling asleep. After a long nap, she finally woke up and started to get restless in the carrier. She was a very active child who didn’t want to be held when she could be exploring. Because of how crowded the area was, for a while, I tried my best to distract her to keep her in the carrier so she wouldn’t be underfoot, but eventually, she was too restless and had to be let out.  

Me: “Okay, okay, I give up. I’ll set you free.”

I worked her out of the carrier and set her on the ground.

Me: “There you go! You’re finally free!”

I lifted my arms as if celebrating, and my goddaughter did the same back at me before starting to toddle off. We had done this whole routine, including her lifting her arms to celebrate being set loose along with me, a few times before, so I didn’t think much of it until I looked up and noticed someone looking at me funny.

It was only then that I realized that I, a white man, had just made a big deal about setting my black goddaughter free at the opening day of the African American History Museum, in a section explicitly dedicated to the time period leading up to freeing of the slaves.

Let’s just say I have never been accused of having an excess of tact and my people skills are pretty much limited to persons with an age of twelve or lower. I tried to give the person giving me the odd look an apologetic smile and slunk off after my goddaughter.

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Luckily, Customers Don’t Have Firing Power

, , , , | Right | September 2, 2021

I worked for a naval architectural firm in the 1980s. The Washington, DC office I worked in had several US Navy contracts. The office had three departments: one admin and two departments that supported our customers. I worked in one of the latter departments.

The other department had one customer in particular who was very demanding. He was also known for his quick temper. I didn’t know about him at this time, though I soon would.

One evening, I happened to be working late. I assumed I was the only one in the office suite. When our office phone line gets a call after business hours, a night bell rings, and the call can be picked up from any extension. At around 7:00 pm, the bell rang and I picked up.

Me: “[Company].”

Customer: “Get me Mr. [Other Department Chief]!”

Me: “I’m not sure if he’s in, but I’ll go check.”

I happened to sit next to the department chiefs’ offices. I peeked in the office of [Other Department Chief] and he wasn’t there.

Me: “I’m sorry, Mr. [Other Department Chief] isn’t here this evening. I can take a message and see that he gets it first thing in the morning.”

Customer: “God d*** it! I need to speak to him now! Get me his home phone number.”

I knew that even if I had access to that information, I shouldn’t give that out to anyone.

Me: “I’m sorry, sir, I cannot give out that information, but—”

Customer: “D*** it, I need that number. This is [Customer] and there’s a major f***-up on these plans! Get me his godd*** phone number, or I’ll have you fired so quick your head’ll spin!” *Pause* “What’s your name?”

Me: “I’m [My Name], and I don’t work for Mr. [Other Department Chief]. But I’ll see if there’s anyone here in his department that can help you.”

I placed him on hold before he could get another word out. I walked over to the other side of the suite, and there happened to be a secretary whose husband worked with [Customer].

Me: “Hey, [Secretary]. There’s some loudmouth on hold that wants to talk to Mr. [Other Department Chief]. Says his name is [Customer] something…”

[Secretary]’s eyes got wide, and she asked that I transfer him to her extension. I went back to my office and transferred the call and then got back to my work.

About an hour later, Mr. [Other Department Chief], [Secretary]’s husband, and a couple of the other department’s engineers came into the office. They used the conference room to spread out a whole bunch of engineering drawings. They began intently studying them while on a speakerphone call with [Customer]. Though I couldn’t make out what was being said, I heard [Customer]’s voice yelling for nearly another hour.

After their call, Mr. [Other Department Chief] was walking past my office. I called out to him.

Me: “Hey, Mr. [Other Department Chief]. Do I still have a job?”

Other Department Chief: “Huh?”

Me: “Oh, that [Customer] guy said he was going to have me fired.”

Mr. [Other Department Chief] laughed and then waved his hand at me, signaling me not to worry about [Customer]. And sure enough, I still had my job for eight more years — thankfully without ever having to deal with [Customer] again.

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And That’s The Tea

, , , , | Working | June 4, 2021

I order a tea at a coffee shop drive-thru, and I check it when I receive it because the tea smells wrong. Someone grabbed two different types of tea bags; I ordered a large green tea, and they put in one green and one Earl Grey. I hand the tea back to the barista.

Me: “I’m sorry, but you made a mistake. I ordered a green tea but this is half green and half Earl Grey.”

Barista: “Will you take it anyway?”

I stare at him in astonishment.

Me: “No.”

For those who are not tea drinkers, Earl Grey has a very strong flavor that is not at all the same as green tea.

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The Complaints Blossom All Year Round

, , , , , , | Right | May 19, 2021

Tourist: “Where are the cherry blossom trees?”

Me: “They’re in the park near the tidal basin, but ma’am, it’s July. They don’t have any blossoms right now.”

Tourist: “So they’ll just look like normal trees?”

Me: “Yes, ma’am.”

Tourist: “Well, can’t you go put some back on for my photos?”

Me: “That would be impossible, ma’am. They only blossom in spring.”

Tourist: “That’s stupid! Who came up with that idea?”

Me: “That would be nature, ma’am.”

Tourist: “Terrible service! Where can I write to and complain?”

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